I Got Schooled During My Pedicure

toesLast minute appointment cancellations used to drive me bonkers. As a new mom, they now are my excuse for impromptu self-care. During one such incident last week when I was already on the road, I decided to use Yelp to identify the closest nail salon.

Within 15 minutes my feet were soaking in a foot spa. The man performing my pedicure asked what I do, and rather than go into all the facets of my work, I settled on, “I teach public speaking.”

Oh, that’s easy, the pedicurist said.

I joked that he better not tell that to the people I work with. Then he asked, People really pay you for that?

Okay, I was intrigued. While my ego could have gotten the best of me, I was curious how this gentle, twentysomething Vietnamese man had come to a place of such confidence with public speaking.

Andy, as he finally introduced himself, explained to me: In my country we don’t have fear of public speaking. We look at everyone in audience as family. When you speak to family you feel safe. You don’t change your voice. You speak like you. And the people you speak to lean in if they can’t hear you and everybody understands.

I asked Andy about the situations where he does feel fear, and he quickly shared, my U.S. Citizenship test. I take it in one month, and I’m worried I won’t get enough answers right.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a conversation with a stranger where you felt like time just stopped. Where you knew you were meant to collide with person before you so that you could help each other gain insight. Then, the exchange was over. You both went on your merry way. And you knew instantly you were no longer the same. Your consciousness had palpably shifted…for the better.

I learned 3 key things from my unexpected hour with Andy.

First, as I would go on to share with the women in my Step Into Your Moxie Mastery that same night, practice the “family rule.” When you look out at your audience, see your loved ones in their eyes. It really does help quell the jitters.

Second, when you speak in front of an audience, don’t change your voice. So often we adopt an unnecessary affectation when we speak publicly. We put a strange emphasis on certain words. Or breathe shallowly in pursuit of throwing our voice a greater distance. Let the pomp and circumstance go, and just have a conversation.

And third, and in my opinion most importantly, remember that how you have overcome fear in one facet of your life can be applied to other areas where fear is surfacing. I asked Andy how he can take what works for him in public speaking and apply it to his test preparation, and he chuckled at the obviousness of it all. I connect each question to something in my family, and then I remember the answer.

I would have never thought of that as a memorization strategy, but I’m sure it will work for Andy since thinking about his family allows him to tap into his strength and get out of his own head.

What are areas in your life where you have overcome fear? How can you apply what worked to other contexts where fear is getting the best of you?

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  1. Posted June 19, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Wow Alexia, that is such a great story! Amazing, those little unsuspecting moments in life where big revelations come from! I love your first two keys and I will be using them tonight at my Moxie performance. Seeing my loved ones in the audience member eyes, definitely. But your advice to not change your voice hit home. I do hear people often adopting a “stage voice” and I love your reminder!

  2. Posted June 21, 2014 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    I love this. I’m preparing myself to begin public speaking for my work, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done it (speech 101 in college, as a matter of fact). This could be really helpful. If I can talk about what I do the way I discuss it with my husband, I will likely feel a lot more comfortable. Great article, and great experience, and good for you for taking the time to pamper yourself, Mama!

  3. Posted June 22, 2014 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    @AdriaDeCorte Well, you most certainly wowed our audience Thursday night. You have become quite the powerhouse speaker, and I am honored to have been invited to kickstart the journey for you.

    @JenniferKilkenny Yes, the key is speaking with your audience rather than at them. So each time you present you get to have lots of husbands!

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